Keith Miller will be leading a work team of four individuals to the Ryazan oblast to help complete construction of a new facility for the Baptist congregation in Kasimov. The dates of their trip are July 26 to August 7. Please pray for their efforts, as well as the ongoing ministry of the WVBC Ryazan mission partnership. For more information on how you can be involved in this ministry, please contact David Bess at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter 2016 Trip Report
February 24 to March 11, 2016
David Bess, Trip Leader
Jason Marshall, Frederick Ward, Jeannie Bess and I left from the Columbia Gas Building in Charleston on Wednesday morning, February 24. We rented a van to drive to Washington Dulles Airport to save on airfare and to have greater flexibility with flight selection. We were delayed leaving Dulles due to bad weather, and missed our connecting flight in Frankfurt, Germany. Another flight to Moscow was available; so all was well. We had no idea at this time that the trip would develop into two, distinct mission experiences.
We were transported to Ryazan from the airport by team translator Olga Danilova and Victor Ternoviskiy of Central Church. Victor and his wife, Natasha, hosted the entire team in their home. After having a cup of tea and visiting for a few moments, we enjoyed a much-needed rest.
The next morning I met with the Economic Development Team. We reviewed an update to the loan guidelines and agreed on the contents. Several loan proposals were presented, but since no one has yet been selected by the Ryazan Baptist Union to lead the program on their end, no loans were approved. I’m willing to fill this position with the continuing advice of Keith Miller, who previously led the effort. My hope is that the Ryazan Baptist leaders will have a leader selected soon so that more Christian businessmen in the churches can be given assistance.
In the afternoon, I had a discussion with Pavel and Tamara about the transfer of funds from the WVBC to the Ryazan Baptist Union. While they are not happy about the new 5% charge by International Ministries, their greatest concern is with the great difficulty of withdrawing the funds from a Russian bank. As I understand their situation, Russian banks work much differently with church and organizational funds than American banks. Something needs to be done to make the transfer of WVBC mission dollars smoother for access by the Ryazan Baptist Union. I told them I would work with WV leaders to seek a better process.
Saturday morning the team drove to Kasimov to see the progress that has been made with the new church building. We met with Pastor Alexi and his wife, Natasha. We were fed lunch and enjoyed a time of warm fellowship. Churches from across the Ryazan Baptist Union came together the previous summer to build the structure, which is not yet complete. It was a wonderful display of churches working together as an association to advance the kingdom. The church is still small, but growing. After getting a tour of the inside and outside of the building, we drove back towards Ryazan. “Russian reality,” as Pavel calls it, had a severe effect on Olga’s van, with a deep pothole causing a new tire to blowout. After changing the tire, we continued on the trip back to Ryazan. The doughnut spare however, soon overheated and went flat as well. As we were sitting on the side of the road in a remote area with darkness falling, we sang hymns and praised God for his goodness and faithfulness. Soon Pavel and Pastor Alexi arrived with a replacement tire so we could get all the way back to Ryazan.
On Sunday morning, I preached at Hope Church, while Jason and Fred spoke at Central Church. That afternoon we met with a group of Ukraine refugees at Central Church. We heard of their plight as a result of the civil war in Ukraine. One family planned to return with a team of Ryazan Baptists who were going to the area the next weekend to provide relief and supplies to the many people who are hurting. We shared prayer requests, and had a moving time of group prayer together. Later Sunday afternoon, the team went to the new site for Hope Church. The property has been purchased already by Hope Church, with construction to begin soon. From that site we went to another location where there are plans to build a conference center and camp for all of the Ryazan Baptist Union. Pavel would like for the entire RBU to work together on the project. It could be compared to a combination of West Virginia’s Parchment Valley and Camp Cowen. Early on Sunday evening, we led a Bible study at the halfway house of Central Church. The men of the team led the men in “The Resolution” principles, while Jeannie met with the women and shared with them about Queen Esther. Her program included sample beauty treatments and gifts of tiaras, which all the women thoroughly enjoyed. Jason and one particular young man developed a strong rapport together. We learned that later in the evening the same young man, Roma, made a profession of faith with one of the Russian pastors. We feel the team had a part to play in his decision.
Monday morning, the team went to visit with Pastor Vloyda Kochev at Word of Christ church. His wife was feeling poorly and was unable to join us. He shared about his church’s growing ministry and showed us samples of puppets. He was very grateful for the considerable financial gift sent by a partner WVBC church. Due to the Russian bank restrictions however, it will be some time before he is able to benefit from it and actually purchase a used van as was intended. From Word of Christ we left for lunch at Central, then went to the gypsy camp. We first met with a large group of gypsy children. I explained the Gospel to them through using the wordless book, then the team gave them gifts of candy. From there we went to a second location in the camp, with older children, youth and adults. We stayed there some time, listening to their testimonies and sharing our own. The most heartbreaking and heartwarming part of the trip was found among the same group of people. Pastor Andrey Balashov, from Resurrection Church, is the coordinator of an outreach to the gypsies. Some of them attend his church, since they are not far from the city of Ryazan.
Monday evening, we returned to Hope Church to share the men’s and women’s Bible study with the interested adults there. The women were thrilled again, and the men had many questions about how to be better husbands. We followed the leading of the Spirit and responded to the questions, discussing the Biblical concepts involved with being a godly husband and servant leader.
Tuesday morning, we met Pam and Alyssa Miller at Hope Church, who were in the area visiting Katya. Lena Bulgova also dropped by the church, so both old and new friendships were cultivated. We left for Korablino to see the auto garage of Dima Mikava and the new church structure. After seeing the auto garage, the team drove to the site of the new Korablino building. The congregation is already meeting in it. The entire team looked around the lower level, then everyone went up the stairs to the second level. The second level is unfinished, but 98% of the floor was solid and finished. While Dima was explaining his plans for the second story, Jason moved back from the group to take a picture and stepped on the one portion of the floor that had not yet been completed. He fell through to the ground level, a drop of nearly ten feet.
As the team, Pastor Pavel, and the church at Korablino learned the extent of Jason’s injury, this trip took an entirely different direction. We would witness Christian love and God’s power manifested in a way that had never been experienced in Ryazan. Pastor Pavel and Pastor Dima carried Jason to the van outside the church, with Olga trying to support his bad leg. Jason was transported to the nearby Korablino hospital, where x-rays revealed his right hip was badly broken. Adding to his pain was the frustration of being treated by doctors and staff who spoke little or no English. He could not answer their questions and they could not answer his. Olga worked with him at the hospital as much as possible, but she also had to translate for the rest of the team. One of the Korablino church women, who is also a pharmacist, spoke fair English. She stayed with Jason most of the time. Dima, who knows a little English, spent the first night in the hospital with him. Marayana, the pharmacist, spent the second. Jason began witnessing to the staff with what little Russian he knew, despite his pain and strange surroundings. The care at the Korablino hospital was good, but the facility was primitive.
While the Korablino church was rallying around Jason, I was getting in touch with the trip insurance company. I cannot say enough good things about Gallagher Travel insurance. For the $25 or so I paid for Jason’s coverage, the service was spectacular. God truly provided for Jason’s needs through the trip insurance. On Wednesday evening, the insurance company made arrangements for Jason to be transported by ambulance to a hospital in Moscow that was well equipped to do the surgery. I rode with Jason in the ambulance, while Olga took the rest of the team to the lodging that was awaiting them. Jason arrived in Moscow after midnight, and by 3:00 a.m. he was settled in his room. I managed to get a taxi to the nearby Presidential Hotel where the insurance company had a room awaiting. He had surgery on Thursday, and it went very well. Olga was still working with the other half of the team, translating for them and getting them ready for their early morning flight on Friday back to the U.S. The medical staff at the Moscow hospital spoke a little more English, but communication was still a challenge. After getting Jeannie and Fred to the airport on Friday morning, Olga met me at the hotel, where the insurance company had also provided a room for her. She accompanied me to see Jason, and we began helping him understand more clearly the treatment and therapy that was being given.
After physical therapy and some time to heal, the next Friday, March 11, Jason was taken to the airport by a special team provided by the travel insurance company. The insurance company paid for his transport and for three, first-class tickets from Moscow to Washington, D.C. (Jason, a doctor to monitor him on the long flight, and me) and ground transportation from Dulles airport to his home in Williamson, WV.
The ministry on the first part of this mission trip occurred in the Ryazan oblast. The ministry in the second part occurred with the Moscow medical staff. Irina, two doors down from Jason, was a former medical translator for a Russian doctor, translating from Russian to English. She said she would be glad to help Jason in any way he needed it, and we made use of her. We discussed her spiritual condition, and she claimed she was an atheist. Upon talking further, we learned her real problem is with the Russian Orthodox Church, not Jesus Christ. We explained to her what it means to be a Christian, and she was very open. Olga gave a Russian New Testament to her as a present for Women’s Day. She was very grateful.
Natasha was a nurse who did not speak a word of English, but lighted up the drab room with her warm smile. She joined Olga, Jason and me for a church service on Sunday morning. We read Scripture, sang and prayed together, and Olga translated for her. She also received a Russian New Testament as a gift.
“George” was a young man studying to be a paramedic. Jason also developed a bond with him. When we were showing him pictures of the mission trip we had in Ryazan, he was extremely curious about the wordless book and what exactly it meant. So, standing in the hallway of the Russian hospital, I explained the Gospel to him, with Olga’s help, through the wordless book. He said he was not yet ready to follow Jesus but wanted to learn more. He was still intrigued by the wordless book, said he could remember what each page meant, so I gave it to him as a gift. He was thrilled.
Dasha is the young female doctor who accompanied us on the flight back to the States. She was curious about what it meant to be Baptist, and how it was different than being Russian Orthodox. So Jason and I explained it to her. Another ministry seed was planted and a godly relationship was established.
So while mission trips are always life changing, this one was especially so for Jason and me. For Jason, God showed him, and everyone around him, just how passionate he is about Christ and about Russia missions. One of his goals is to return to Korablino and to speak in the church where he fell. He is also learning just how much he can do with God’s help, and how he can experience God’s immeasurable grace in the midst of severe hardship. For me, I’ve seen an entirely different side of the Russian people. I’ve seen my brothers and sisters ministering not just to the people in their Russian communities who are in great need, but to a WV team member greatly in need. Their compassion and generosity is amazing. I’ve also gotten to know the Russian people through the medical community, and see just how skilled and caring they are. Just like the Baptists in Ryazan, the medical community in Russia knows how to accomplish great things with just a few financial resources.
I’ve been a part of six mission trips to Russia now, and I’ve experienced God more on this one than on any of the others. I’m ready to return for another trip as soon as my pastoral schedule permits. What have I learned as a first-time trip leader? Never, ever, go on a mission trip without trip insurance. I’m so grateful to God for the help provided by Gallagher Insurance. Also, expect the unexpected. I had taken extra cash, some extra clothing, and extra medications in case something happened and I was delayed. I needed them all on this trip. Third, have as good a grasp as possible of the language of the region in which you’re ministering. The translator may not always be there as a crutch. Though I’ve gotten pretty good at “Russian charades,” there is no substitute for having some knowledge of speaking and reading the language. I can, and will, do better with my Russian practice.
Finally, this trip has deepened for me my trust and confidence in my Russian brothers and sisters in Christ in Ryazan. The partnership hasn’t been weakened in any way, but strengthened. So despite Jason’s accident, I believe this trip in God’s eyes has been a definite success.
Since 2001, churches from the West Virginia Baptist Convention have sent teams to the churches of the Ryazan Baptist Union to partner together in a variety of ministries. They include evangelism of children, construction and renovation of facilities, economic development, and leadership training. As a result, mutually inspiring relationships have been built that last for a lifetime.
The material and financial resources of the Russian Baptist churches are small, but their love for Jesus and one another is great. They possess a determined focus to make a difference for Christ with whatever means are available to them. And they ARE making a difference.
My wife Jeannie and I will be leading a group trip to Ryazan, Russia, February 24 to March 5, 2016. Ministry plans include working alongside Central Church in their rehabilitation center. We’ll also be joining Resurrection Church in their outreach to a nearby Gypsy camp.
Will you join us?
For more information, please contact me at email@example.com
WVBC/Russia Mission Partnership
On day two Jeannie and I traveled to Koroblino. There we saw some of the results of the economic development fund in Dima Makiva’s thriving auto repair shop. We took a brief tour of the construction site for the new church building, and visited the small halfway house. Pastor Dima and his congregation of 35 members obviously have been very busy.
From Korablino Pavel drove us to Uklovo. Pastor Andrey Dorohov, his wife Nastia, and several members of the congregation met with us. Andrey shared the story of how his congregation came to occupy the present facility. The church has 48 members, and has a very strong ministry to neighborhood children. They have approximately 100 people who attend church every Sunday.
After having our flight canceled from Charleston, WV to Washington D.C., Jeannie and I drove to Washington D.C. to catch the transatlantic flight. There were no problems with the remainder of the journey. We were greeted warmly in Moscow’s Domodedovo airport by our translator, Olga Danilova. We drove to Ryazan and settled into our hostess’ home to rest for the night before getting started with Day One.
I met with the Russia Economic Development group. Andrey Dorohov, Dima Makiva, Valoyda Kochnev, Andrey Krylov, Pavel Zhirov and Tamara Saveliyua, and David Bess were present. Olga Danilova translated. No new loans are being made due to the present economic climate.
The group agreed to the following:
• No new loans will be made until a strong leader is in place from Ryazan.
• Future loans will be made at 7% interest rather than 5% interest, and the 2% difference will be used to create a delinquent loan fund.
We discussed how to improve communication between West Virginia Baptist churches and Ryazan Baptist churches. Email (with Google Translate), Facebook and three-way Skype calls (with a live translator) were all discussed as options. I am determined to work on better communication between WV and Ryazan churches.
Word of Christ Church
At Word of Christ Church in Ryazan Jeannie and I met with the pastor Volayda Kochev and his wife Vera, as well as a few church members. He and Vera have been married 32 years, and have two children and one grandson. They have a small church of 20 members, but are very active. They have age-graded Sunday School classes and visit often in a nearby hospital for children with cerebral palsy. They have a strong prayer ministry. They are grateful for financial support from WV, and used those funds to purchase a new computer for the church. They also have a puppet ministry, which consists of making their own puppets and ministering with them to a nearby children’s hospital.
Next Wednesday morning, March 4, my wife Jeannie and I will begin our fifth mission trip to Ryazan, Russia. A question that may come to the mind of many is, “Why Russia? Of all the places to do missions, and of all the opportunities available, why are you partnering with Baptist congregations in the Russian oblast of Ryazan?
The first reason is God’s calling. Ten years ago, God began working in my heart and mind as a pastor to get serious about going beyond the four walls of my church to do ministry. The Acts 1:8 model was impressed upon me: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Part of that response to God’s call to missions was a first-time trip to Ryazan, Russia. Having been raised in the Cold War, my heart was burdened to reach these people that long been perceived as enemies to my country. After arriving there and working alongside brothers and sisters in Christ, I was inspired by how they can do so much for Christ with so little resources. I was also convicted about how I do so little with so many resources. Russia, for me, is my response to “the ends of the earth.” My wife Jeannie has also been with me on every trip so far, and she shares that calling.
The second reason is that this opportunity in Russia is a partnership. It is a two-way activity, in which West Virginia Baptists help congregations in Ryazan, and they help and inspire us. The goal of the Russian Mission Partnership is to strengthen and to equip Russian believers through evangelistic outreach and training, work projects to improve their facilities, and economic development to enable them to support themselves in a greater way. Perhaps the most lasting achievement of the partnership however, is the relationships that are established. Despite the differences of culture, language and governments, we get to know one another well, we pray for one another regularly, and we share one another’s joys and sorrows deeply.
After being involved in the Russia Mission Partnership Team for several years, I recently was asked to be the group’s leader. I’ll be making the trip to Ryazan from March 4-14 in that capacity. Jeannie and I will meet with Ryazan Baptist pastors and their wives, encourage the congregations in their outreach efforts, and assist with the economic development fund. I’ll also look for new ways in which God may be moving among our Russian brothers and sisters, new opportunities for ministry together.
Would you like to explore how God may be leading you and/or your church to be a part of the WVBC/Russia Mission Partnership team? You can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my church office phone of (304)755-2224.
– David Bess
I am writing today to share with you an exciting opportunity for your church to have an impact in the world. Let me give you three specific blessings that have been ours as our church has been involved in a sister church relationship with Hope Church of Ryazan, Russia for the past ten years. the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the past 11 years, I have been involved in leadership of the Russia Mission Partnership Team (RMPT), a mission partnership related to the WVBC. This has been one of the most exciting times of mission for me personally and for the church where I serve as Pastor, Pea Ridge Baptist. I believe we have been able to capture a glimpse of God’s worldwide kingdom through this partnership…and I want you to have the same opportunity. Click here info information on how to get involved:
I really would like to ask that you prayerful consider your churches involvement in this wonderful ministry. I have included several profiles of pastors/church that are currently without any partnerships. I have personally met each of these pastors and know their hearts are tuned to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that each of these would be matched with churches here in West Virginia. Look over these, pray for them and how God would have you involved. Contact me and I will give you more information. I am praying for God’s guidance for you and provision for our brothers and sisters in Ryazan.
From March 1 to March 10, 2012, representatives of five West Virginia Baptist churches led Biblical peacemaking seminars for three Baptist churches in Ryazan, Korablino and Shatsk. Material from “The Peacemaker” by Ken Sande was presented to congregational leaders and members. Members of this mission team were Greg Creasy (team leader – Pea Ridge Baptist), David and Jeannie Bess (First Baptist, Nitro), Gloria Busch and Nancy Duckworth (South Parkersburg Baptist), Betty Randolph (Oakwood Baptist), and Martina Shull (Hopewell Baptist). In addition to sharing the Peacemaking principles that have transformed so many WVBC churches, the team also ministered at an orphanage in Novominchurinsk. Gifts of fruit, towels and stuffed animals were distributed to the children. The Gospel was also shared through a craft activity of making wordless bracelets. Later in the day, Pastor Valery Severin of the Novominchurinsk church spoke with the team about the challenges he faces in his ministry, including the loss of a facility in which his church can meet. Later in the week, Lena Bulgakova shared with the members of the team details of the Logov Girls’ Prison ministry she leads. She draws upon her own experience in Biblical teaching as well as training received from Child Evangelism Fellowship. On March 9, the team participated in the Women’s Day activities at Hope Church. The women present were treated to several dramatic presentations about various Bible stories.
It is always amazing how Russian Baptists do so much with so little resources, while we as West Virginia Baptists often do so little with so many resources. There are great needs present in the Ryazan area, but the devotion of these brothers and sisters in Christ is strong. This trip deepened and expanded our partnership ties. God definitely was present and active among us all!
What struck me the most today were the similarities and differences between our two cultures. We began our day with a meeting to plan the rest of our week, then set out to the grocery store to buy
supplies to fill gift bags for the kids we would see today and tomorrow. Their big store, Globus, is just like a Walmart or Kroger- food, clothing, toys, kitchen supplies, etc- but alongside aisles of Russian labeled foods we saw Hershey’s chocolate, Colgate toothpaste, Orbit gum, and other American products. For some reason this really struck me. It was a different part of the world, a different language, a different culture, but we are so much the same. After shopping we drove out to a different city called Korablino to help Dima, the pastor of the church there, lead a program for kids. He and his team have been holding a day camp for kids and teens all week that will culminate in a huge party on Thursday and a Christmas Eve service on Friday. They called it the Russian Awanas. We simply introduced ourselves, shared a short testimony, sang a few songs for the fifteen or twenty kids that were there, and hoped they were interested enough in Christ to come back for the rest of the week. Until this point we had only seen the youth in Hope Church who were huge in number and absolutely on fire for God. These kids were not the same. These were kids that needed Christ desperately and had no knowledge of Him. As we met these kids we realized that they were the same as any other troubled kids- in Russia or in the U.S. No matter where you are in the world the need is the same. People just need hope.
Hannah Gaunch – Team Member